In the Resy Questionnaire, we play a game of 20 questions with the industry folks behind some of our favorite restaurants. What’s your most memorable restaurant experience? Your favorite food movie? What restaurant would you want to time-travel for?
In this edition, we spoke to Masako Morishita, the executive chef at the helm of Perry’s, who’s been delighting Adams Morgan with her very own brand of comforting Japanese fare.
The Resy Questionnaire
1. Favorite thing you’ve ever cooked?
Miso butter clams with onigiri rice, as it reminds me of my father. One of his favorite things to eat is miso soup with butter; he’ll pour miso soup on top of his rice, add butter (which is not traditionally done in Japan), and eat! Miso and butter is now one of my favorite flavor combinations thanks to him.
2. Kitchen tool or equipment you couldn’t live without?
A cake tester and my water bottle.
3. What pantry items would you bring on a desert island?
If I were on a desert island, I bet I would be eating lots of seafood, so I would bring rice, miso, mirin, sake, and soy sauce. These Japanese seasonings would make my meals a lot better and rice goes well with almost everything — I can eat rice every day for every meal.
5. Favorite cookbook?
Donabe: Classic and Modern Japanese Clay Pot Cooking, by Naoko Takei Moore.
6. Your drink of choice?
A dirty gin martini — wherever I go, this is almost always the first drink to start off my night.
7. Favorite food movie?
“The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House.”
8. Your ideal dinner party guest, dead or alive?
Guy Fieri. Over the years I’ve gotten a few messages about auditioning for different food competition shows, but I’m not interested in participating in any competition that doesn’t involve Guy Fieri.
9. What restaurant industry person do you admire the most?
My parents. They currently own and operate our family restaurant in Kobe, Japan that is close to 100 years old. I’ve learned everything that I know about cooking — and life in general — from them.
10. The greatest restaurant experience of your life so far?
When I go back to Japan to visit family, I always visit Itagiya in Kobe (my hometown). The restaurant is a vegetable izakaya that offers dishes using produce grown and cooked by two brothers with the help of their mother. Itagiya always has unique and very creative takes on Japanese comfort food, which I really love, not to mention a killer sake list!
11. Your greatest professional achievement?
I’m proud of how I’ve always had the courage to make big decisions when it comes to my career. Before I started cooking, I spent five years as an NFL cheerleader for the Washington Commanders and made captain, which was a dream come true for any dancer. After I retired, I decided to try to make it as a chef, which shouldn’t be that surprising since I was raised in my family’s restaurant, but I was unsure how my food would be received since Japanese cuisine (besides sushi) isn’t familiar to many in the United States.
I’ve been cooking full time for two years now and within this short amount of time, I feel that I’ve successfully brought something new and different to the D.C. restaurant scene, and I consider that to be my greatest achievement so far.
12. What single dish best describes your personality?
In life and in cooking, I am all about having fun, being playful, and thinking outside of the box. And I think that is best reflected in my braised daikon and melted brie dish.
I prepare the daikon in the traditional Japanese way, slow cook it with broth (a combination of chicken stock, kombu dashi, and butter), and then top it with melted brie. We eat a lot of daikon in Japan, but you won’t find it served or prepared with dairy products like butter and cheese. It’s fun and unexpectedly delicious, and I feel this describes who I am as a chef well.
13. If you could go back in time, which restaurant would you dine at?
I would love to dine at the restaurant Crane & Turtle in Petworth, D.C., which closed in 2016. Chef Makoto Hamamura had brilliant French- and Japanese-influenced dishes, and it is one of the restaurants I miss the most.
14. Your favorite meal from childhood?
Mix juice, which is made from different fruit juices (bananas, canned oranges in syrup, apples, etc.) that are blended with milk and ice. I used to have severe asthma when I was a child, and I had to go see a doctor every single week to get a shot. My mom took me to the café nearby after every doctor’s visit for mix juice, which helped to make up for the painful experience.
15. What is your wish for the restaurant industry?
I would love to see more female chefs leading kitchens, especially immigrant ladies like me. I feel a responsibility to be successful because if I can make it, hopefully I can inspire other women like me to believe in themselves.
16. What do you wish you did better? What do you do well?
I wish I did better in math and science in school; now that I’m a chef, I’ve noticed that to be a good baker, you really need those skills.
I am a good leader; I learned everything I know about leadership while I was a captain of the Commanders cheer squad. And while dancing and cooking might be different things, leading a team takes the exact same skillset.
17. If you could eat through a city for a day, where would you go?
Hokkaido. If only I could eat all the delicious seafood!
18. The one thing you can’t resist splurging on when you go out?
19. What do you value most in restaurants?
I really value a positive work environment. Checking in with coworkers, giving them praise and motivation when facing challenges, and most importantly, letting them know that they are seen and valued for their work is important.
20. It’s your last meal on earth, what are you eating?
Onigiri rice ball with Sujiko (salmon roe that’s still in its sac).
Perry’s is open for dinner Monday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (and until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays), and on Sundays from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Drag brunch on Sundays are from 10 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 3 p.m. Japanese breakfast is available every other Saturday (see schedule here).